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Six things first-year students should know for success

Illustration by Clare Rodgers / The Kent Stater

The first year of college can be stressful, nerve-wracking and downright scary.

The beginning of the year comes with a lot of changes for a fresh-faced, recent high school graduate: packing up their bags, moving into an unfamiliar place with people they don’t know and the stresses of starting their first college classes.

While everyone’s experience is different, new students can learn how to survive their first year with some helpful tips from professors and upperclassmen alike, who wished they would have heard the advice they shared when they first came to Kent State.

College isn’t like high school

Savannah Holder, a senior majoring in psychology, said she used to happily take morning classes in high school, but now she doesn’t roll out of bed till at least 9:30 a.m..

“Don’t take that 8 a.m. class,” Holder said. “If you’re able to focus better in the afternoon or early evening, you will be happier if you aren’t forcing yourself to wake up early every day.”

Sophomore architecture major Atticus Caleo agreed college is nothing like high school. He said it’s okay to take it easy when transitioning to college.

“You might have been overachieving in high school, but it’s okay not to take six classes,” Caleo said. “Give yourself room to adjust. Not having everything figured out is completely fine.

Savannah Holder is a senior psychology major. She recommends getting good sleep for a successful semester. Courtesy of Savannah Holder.

Join clubs and find your people

“I wish someone would have told me to join clubs,” Caleo said. “It helps the process by having a sort of support system to help you in your first year.”

English professor Matthew Shank said he encourages new students to attend Blastoff!, an event at the beginning of the fall semester that showcases a plethora of clubs and organizations. He said it is a great way to join clubs.

“I would advise incoming freshmen to get involved in any student groups or organizations that interest them,” Shank said. “There are so many to choose from and they are a great way to meet people with similar interests and concerns.”

Reach out for help, academically and mentally

There are times when college can be challenging. It’s important to take advantage of campus resources available to help with academics and mental health.

Senior English major Anna Novak said she struggled heavily with her mental health her freshman year. She said she wishes she would have known about the mental health resources on campus sooner.

“There’s so much here regarding mental health,” Novak said. “From counseling at Van Campen hall to psychologists at Deweese Health Center, I wish I would have reached out for help before my depression got as bad as it did.”

When classes become overwhelming, there are also resources available. Talking to a professor or signing up for tutoring in the library is a great place to start.

“I would also suggest they get to know their professors,” Shank said. “Go to their office hours if you have questions about grades or assignments. Don’t be intimidated.”

Senior criminal justice major Nina Lozada had similar advice about classes.

“If there’s ever any trouble in your classes, make sure you talk to your professors,” she said. ”If you have a difficult professor, just do what you can and get the help you need elsewhere, if it’s another student or if the school offers tutoring for it.”


When struggling to write a paper, the Writing Commons is a good place to get advice on formatting or even getting the topic of a paper. Students can make an appointment on their website

If a student is in need of someone to talk to, call Counseling and Psychological Services at (330) 672-2487. They provide in-person and tele-counseling services for students.

Explore campus and surrounding areas

There’s lots to do around campus and in downtown Kent. Don’t be afraid to explore and try something new.

“My biggest piece of advice is to explore campus and dorms,” Ricky Martin, a senior education major, said. “Don’t just learn where your classes are, go into buildings you don’t have classes in, go play volleyball on the tri, find the kitchen in your dorm and don’t be afraid to use it.”

There are plenty of businesses downtown for incoming freshmen to explore, according to Shank.

“Definitely support local businesses downtown instead of national chains,” Shank said. “Don’t go to Starbucks or Dunkin’. Go to Tree City instead. Don’t go to Chipotle, go to Taco [Tontos].”

Along with businesses, there are even more events to enjoy throughout the year.

“Check out a live show at the Kent Stage, or at least experience “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” there,” Shank said. “There are several special events throughout the year that take place downtown. Check them out.”

Show up to class

This might sound like obvious advice, but attendance will not always be required in college classes. A student may be inclined to take days off, but Shank said this could still affect their grades and become a bad habit.

“If you’re taking in-person classes, show up,” Shank said. “Students who miss classes tend to get behind, and that’s not a good place to be.”

Shank recommends establishing a schedule to stay organized.

“It requires a certain amount of discipline to set up a study schedule and stick to it, and go to class,” he said. “But this will help you keep on top of things and not feel overwhelmed. If you do reach a point where you do feel overwhelmed or burned out, I’ll remind you that help is out there. You’re not alone.”

Lastly, have fun

For many, college marks the first time living on your own. Don’t be afraid to use this freedom to try something new.

“Don’t try and force yourself to be an adult.” Holder said. “College is meant to be an experience – good and bad. Have fun, but make sure you’re staying on top of your schooling. Try new things that you didn’t get to in high school.”

Whether it be a student dyeing their hair a different color, rushing a sorority or fraternity or making a new group of friends, college is a great time to explore.

“I think the biggest thing, nine times out of ten, is you’re going to regret things you don’t do,” Martin said. “Try new things and do things that are outside of your comfort zone and new. You’re on your own now, you’re in charge of you.”

Destiny Torres is an opinion writer. Contact her at [email protected].

Illustration by Clare Rodgers / The Kent Stater.
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Destiny Torres, Opinion Writer
Destiny is an opinion writer who is majoring in journalism with a minor in creative writing. She enjoys writing about things she's most passionate about. Contact her at [email protected].

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